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Race Analysis: Manatee County Commission District 4


MANATEE COUNTY – In District 4, incumbent Manatee County Commissioner Robin DiSabatino will compete in an open Republican Party primary against Tim Norwood on the August 26 ballot. Because no other candidates are in the race and the winner will be awarded the seat on the board, all registered voters in District 4 will be allowed to participate in the election regardless of party affiliation.


DiSabatino was elected to the seat in 2010 and is just finishing her first term. Norwood also sought the party's nomination in 2010, losing to the incumbent commissioner in a three-way closed Republican primary.

DiSabatino has built a broad coalition of support that spans both sides of the aisle. She's proven herself as a commissioner who listens to the citizens of her district and will go to the mat for causes she believes in. She's not afraid of ruffling a few feathers and doesn't run from confrontation, but her blend of aggressiveness and thoughtful pragmatism seem to strike an effective balance.

A champion of small businesses, DiSabatino worked very hard for the South County CRA and her efforts in helping to create an environment of revitalization in one of the county's most blighted districts was one of her chief accomplishments in her first term.

Like too few Republican officials in our state, DiSabatino also seems to recognize our pristine environment for the economical resource that it is. Her concerns over the expansion of the controversial Long Bar Pointe development helped to defeat at least some of the most environmentally egregious aspects of that project. For her efforts, she became only the second Republican county commissioner to earn the endorsement of the Sierra Club.

DiSabatino asked important questions during the proposed health care sales tax debate and has continued to hold the county and vested interests accountable to make sure taxpayers are not fleeced in a special interest free-for-all. She also became the voice of animal activists who were outraged by the No-Kill scandal and the county's lack of accountability in its Animal Services division.

Commissioner DiSabatino routinely takes an academic approach to issues, seeking input from all parties and seeking common sense solutions that build bridges between various factions. While this may seem elementary, it has instead unfortunately been a rather novel approach, making Disabatino's contributions all the more valuable.


Tim Norwood describes himself as someone from a military family and an engineering/manufacturing background. He also goes to great lengths to tout his religous faith. In 2010, he brought a very thin platform to the election, too often unable to articulate detailed policy positions and sometimes seemed confused as to what was and was not under the purview of the board. His understanding of the county commission's functions seems to have improved somewhat; nonetheless, the difference between the two candidates in terms of their adeptness in the area of public policy still seems profound.

Norwood has created a detailed list of complaints for the district and promised to do a better job in creating improvements quicker than his opponent has been able to, claiming that his project management experience will give him an edge over other commissioners. That being said, Norwood has still offered relatively little in the form of specific ways he would do so and still seems to get tripped up by his inexperience with answers and ideas that conflict with the realities of the public administration process.

Norwood's primary pitch seems to be that he will not vote for any new taxes (read revenues) while making significant improvements in areas which cost money. To do this, he says he will work to cut spending even further. This is a common promise that too many inexperienced politicians feel comfortable making, only to learn that balancing revenues and the services that taxpayers demand is much more complicated than their ideology suggests.

Norwood has said that district 4 has a “leadership problem” and has advertised himself as someone possessing the sort of “strong leadership style” to get it more attention than is currently the case. Considering the improvements that DiSabatino has been able to bring to the district and her strong, straightforward approach to the job, it would seem that he has his work cut out for him in convincing voters to dump a representative who in just one term, has already proven herself as one of the most effective commissioners on the seven-member board.

Click here to view an METV debate between the two candidates

Click here to visit the TBT Primary Election Guide for much more on this and other races


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